It’s January, in Canada, again. The lack of sunlight, cold temperatures, and icy roads make Canadian winters challenging and unpleasant for a lot of people, but adding on symptoms of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can make the winter feel damn right intolerable.
What is SAD?
According to MyHealth.Alberta
Seasonal affective disorder, or SAD, is a type of depression that occurs during the same season each year. You may have SAD if you felt depressed during the last two winters but felt much better in spring and summer. Some people may have SAD during the summer months. https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw169553
For me, I really notice my symptoms getting severe in January right after the craziness of the holidays calms down, but I start noticing symptoms starting each November.
-Feel sad, grumpy, moody, or anxious.
-Lose interest in your usual activities.
-Eat more and crave carbohydrates, such as bread and pasta.
-Sleep more but still feel tired.
-Have trouble concentrating.
What do I do if I think I have SAD?
- Make an appointment with your doctor to rule out other health concerns and to discuss options that are tailored to your personal needs.
- Let someone you trust know whats going on. This one is hard for me and luckily I have two people who know that I deal with this each year and check in on me and my mental health regularly, but I have these supports because I reached out and told them what I was dealing with. While not everyone will be supportive, reaching out can create a connection (and also is a good indicator for which people to reach out to for future concerns!).
Other Things that I do
- Light therapy! I bough this happy lamp off Amazon a few years ago and each October I pull it out of the closet and put it on my desk (somewhere I sit everyday) and turn it on for at least 20 minutes.
**This lamp does get quite hot so make sure that you turn it off after each use!**
- Counselling! I don’t have much coverage so I can only afford to see my therapist a few times a year, but I try to ensure that I am able to book an appointment with her each January as I know I’ll be struggling.
- Exercise! A couple years ago I saved up my money and bought myself a treadmill, which I use a lot every winter. I make playlists with music that makes me feel good and go for an hour walk as often as I can to get my heart rate up and my endorphins going! If you don’t have a treadmill, go for a walk or check out YouTube for free workouts.
- Go outside! This one is hard for me. I can’t regulate my temperature on a good day and so trying to convince me to go outside when it’s cold is tricky and I’ll likely grumble and complain until I’m out there. But! I find that getting real sunshine and real fresh air is such an important step for my SAD (and just general everyday life).
- Vitamin D supplement! Talk to your doctor before starting any supplements. My doctor recommended that I take a daily vitamin D supplement during the winter months. See your doctor to find out if this is right for you!
- See friends! I go into hermit mode and I find it hard to be social, but I know that seeing a good friend can make a big difference. If you have really low energy, don’t feel like you need to waste it on just anyone! Be choosy and make a date with a special friend who can keep space for you during this challenging time.
Hang on, Friends
Dealing with mental health is tricky and can feel defeating and lonely. Unfortunately, mental health issues often make us want to hermit away and we need to stay connected–even if it’s just for a quick coffee date, a little text, or to grab a quick snack with someone.
Let someone know you’re struggling and remember, despite how lonely you might feel, you’re not alone. See your doctor and call a friend–you’ve got this!
For my Canadian friends:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service (CSPS), by Crisis Services Canada, enables callers anywhere in Canada to access crisis support by phone, in French or English: toll-free 1-833-456-4566 Available 24/7
Necessary disclaimer: I am not a health professional. I encourage you to consult a doctor before making any health changes related to a specific diagnosis or condition. No information on this site should be relied upon to make a medical diagnosis or determine treatment for a medical condition. The information on this website is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional and is not intended as medical advice.
If you are thinking about suicide. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.crisisservicescanada.ca/
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://myhealth.alberta.ca/Health/Pages/conditions.aspx?hwid=hw169553
Verilux VT10WW1 HappyLight Liberty Compact Light Therapy Lamp. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.amazon.ca/Verilux-VT10WW1-HappyLight-Liberty-Compact/dp/B00K08ZDBI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1547594717&sr=8-1&keywords=happy lamp